Infographic & Image Credit & Copyright: NASA.
On March 18, 1965 after launching into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome onboard Voskhod 2 (call sign Almaz “Diamond”), Alexey Leonov departs his Voskhod 3KD spacecraft and for the first time an inhabitant of Earth floats freely in space.
After depressurization of the craft and hatch opening, the spacewalk begins at 08:34 UTC as Lenov leaves the relative safety of his spacecraft with only his Berkut (Golden Eagle) spacesuit to protect him from the harshness of space. The entire event was shrouded in secrecy and not even Lenov’s family knew of the spacewalk attempt until it had begun. Though the entire duration of the spacewalk lasted only 12 minutes, it was a moment in history that the 30 year old Lenov would document as “Like a seagull with its wings outstretched, soaring high above Earth.”
What many don’t know is that Lenov and crewmate, Commander Pavel Belyayev came closer to death than they had anticipated. Enjoying the moment Lenov hears Belyayev reminding him that it’s time to return to the spacecraft which in his book “Two Sides of the Moon” he says reminded him of his mother yelling out the house window to him, “Lyosha, it’s time to come inside now.”
As he began to make his way back to the spacecraft he quickly realizes that because of the pressure change the suit had become stiff, unmanageable and his hands and feet were pulled from the gloves and boots of the suit so the planned feet-first reentry into the craft was not going to work and there was only 40 minutes of life support to remedy the situation. The solution was to bleed some of the pressure and oxygen out of the suit and pull himself back in head first via the life support cord. The situation which went unreported even to control, left Lenov overheated and physically spent but before the hatch on the spacecraft could be closed he had to spin his body around to orient himself into a position so that the hatch cloud be closed.
That whole ordeal was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as auto-guide landing system failed which forced them the reenter manually, sending them off course into the -22 degree F Siberian forests by roughly 1,250 mi and in the process the orbital module that was supposed to have disconnected before reentry was still attached by a communication cable. The ensuing chaos caused G’s in the craft to reach at least 10 which burst blood vessels in the cosmonaut’s eyes.
After achieving the first spacewalk and subsequent rough landing and rescue the two were successfully reunited to their families and greater Moscow as heroes. He would go on to take part in Apollo/Soyuz and also collaborate on a book with Gemini 8, Apollo 9 and Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott titled “Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race.” I provided the link to the book below for those interested.
Just three months later, during the flight of Gemini 4, NASA astronaut Ed White in his G4C suit built by the David Clark Company, made the first U.S. spacewalk while Commander Jim McDivitt remained inside. White’s Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) lasts 20 minutes and communication was intermittent at best as White couldn’t communicate with the ground. When McDivitt finally switched his radio over to see if the Flight Director had any messages for the crew he heard Gus Grissom’s voice yelling at them to get back inside. It took McDivitt some time to convince White to return to the capsule but finally after voicing the words “It’s the saddest moment of my life.” he climbed back inside.
Today we have come a long way with the longest single spacewalk occurring on March 11, 2001 onboard STS-102 Discovery when Jim Voss and Susan Helms spent 8 hours and 56 minutes outside the shuttle. However with recent water leakage events during EVA’s the universe reminds us that although it has become almost routine, it is still very dangerous.
NASA page for this infographic: http://www.nasa.gov/content/50-years-of-space-walking-infographic/
Dave Scott/Alexey Lenov “Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race.” http://www.amazon.com/Two-Sides-Moon-Story-Space/dp/0312308663